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Part 2: Make Change Inevitable

Part 2: Make Change Inevitable


Who shall set a limit to the influence of a human being?

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Let’s say that you’ve discovered the vital behaviors that need to be enacted to help resolve a profound and persistent problem you’re facing. You’ve also helped everyone involved see the need for change. Now how do you actually go about making that change happen?

To answer this question, let’s return to Guinea worm disease eradication efforts in North Africa—this time to a town in Nigeria. Imagine that you’re following General Gowon. He has been to this village to help dislodge the flawed beliefs that have kept villagers from changing their behavior. Minds have been changed. Certainly changing behavior will be a snap. So what’s the next step?

Most of us have our favorite influence methods—just pass a law, just threaten a consequence, or just offer a training program. The problem with sticking to our favorite methods is not that the methods are flawed per se; it’s that they’re far too simplistic. It’s akin to hiking the Himalayas with only a fanny pack. There’s nothing wrong with Gatorade and a granola bar, but you’ll probably need a lot more. Bringing a simple solution to a complex and resistant problem almost never works.

Nevertheless, people bet on single-source influence strategies all the time. For instance, ask leaders how they’re planning to change their employees from being clock-punchers to quality zealots, and they’ll point to their new training program—the same one that they’re convinced drove General Electric’s stock through the stratosphere in the 1990s. The training content might provide a start, but when it comes to creating a culture of quality, it’ll take a great deal more than a training class. Ask politicians what they’re doing to fight crime, and they’ll tell you that they’re working hard to secure harsher sentences for felony convictions. Also not enough to have much of an impact. Ask community leaders what steps they’re taking to stem the growing plight of childhood obesity, and they’ll sing the praises of their latest pet project—removing candy machines from schools.

And let’s be honest. How many of us haven’t yearned for a quick fix for our own problems? A miracle diet pill, a magical marriage solution, or a $500 set of DVDs that promises financial freedom. Just give us that one thing, and we’re ready to roll.

But it takes a combination of strategies aimed at a handful of vital behaviors to solve profound and persistent problems. In fact, this is the core principle demonstrated by virtually all the change masters we studied. No single strategy explained their success. In fact, it became quite evident that individuals who succeed where others have routinely failed overdetermine success—that is, they bring more influence strategies into play than they might assume would be the minimum required for success. They leave nothing to chance.

This could sound discouraging. In Chapter 2 we shared the good news that it often takes only a few vital behaviors, routinely enacted, to bring about massive and lasting changes. Now we’re adding the idea that, while you need to affect only a few behaviors, behind each you’ll uncover a number of forces that either encourage or discourage the right action and an equal number of forces that either enable or block the correct behavior. Ignore these varied and sundry forces at your own peril.

Fortunately there’s additional good news. We now know enough about the forces that affect human behavior to place them into a coherent and workable model that can be used to organize our thinking, select a full set of influence strategies, combine them into a powerful plan, and eventually make change inevitable.

Master Six Sources of Influence

Here’s how the model works. As we’ve said before, virtually all forces that have an impact on human behavior work on only two mental maps—not two thousand, just two. At the end of the day a person asks, “Can I do what’s required?” and, “Will it be worth it?” The first question simply asks, “Am I able?” The second, “Am I motivated?” Consequently, no matter the number of forces that affect human action—from peer pressure in a junior high school to making citizens aware of the cost of illiteracy in a barrio to offering a class on anger management in Beverly Hills—all these strategies work in one of two ways. They either motivate or enable a vital behavior. Some do both.

Motivation and ability comprise the first two domains of our model.

Make Use of all Six Sources

Now that we’ve explored how all six sources of influence came into play with the Guinea worm project, it’s easy to see why influence geniuses take pains to address each source when going head to head with a profound and persistent problem. Leave out one source, and you’re likely to fail.

Throughout the remainder of this book—to demonstrate how the six sources can be applied in combination—we explore what Dr. Silbert has done with each of these influence tools to help transform lifelong felons into productive citizens. At the home level, we follow an individual who is trying to lose weight and see how each of the six sources might apply to this widespread (pun intended) problem. Finally, we’d ask you to pick a challenge of your own and read each of the six chapters with that problem in mind. Then fashion your own six-source influence strategy. Do it correctly, and like Dr. Silbert and dozens of other successful influencers, you’ll solve problems that have had you and others stumped for years.


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